Have you ever tried to study but felt your eyes droop, and you started to drift off? This is a common issue that many students face. To stay focused and productive, it’s essential to understand why you feel sleepy while studying and develop strategies for avoiding them.
While several external factors can make you sleepy, such as an uncomfortable environment and poor lighting, internal factors also contribute to sleepiness when studying. Let’s explore the causes and solutions to avoid feeling sleepy while studying.
What Causes Sleep While Studying?
Before addressing how to avoid feeling sleepy while studying at night or in the morning, it’s important to understand the possible causes. There are 2 primary categories of causes: internal and external factors.
Internal Causes of Sleep When Studying
As the name implies, internal causes are related to your physical or mental state.
The maximum sustained attention for students is around 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, you start feeling tired. So if your study session is longer than that, you will start feeling tired and sleepy.
Most students ignore this fact and spend hours studying without taking any breaks. This can quickly tire out your brain and lead to you feeling sleepy.
There is a reason most universities have a 10-minute break after every lecture: it helps students stay focused and refreshed. Applying this concept can help you avoid sleepiness during your personal study time.
2. Lack of Sleep
It should not come as a surprise. Lack of sleep is one of the most common causes of sleepiness when studying. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body and mind can’t focus.
The amount of sleep you need varies from person to person. For most people, between 7-9 hours is considered enough. Some might even need up to 10 hours of sleep per night.
3. Poor Posture
Slouching while studying can make you feel sleepy. A study by the National Library of Medicine showed that sitting in a poor posture restricts oxygen and blood flow to your brain. Consequently, it becomes difficult to focus and stay alert. If you want to stay awake, it is essential to maintain a good posture when studying.
Your body needs fuel to function properly and remain alert. If you are hungry while studying, your mind will wander, and you will likely fall asleep due to a lack of energy. Try eating healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, yogurt, or granola bars while studying to keep your energy levels up.
5. Stimulant Overload
It’s easy to get addicted to stimulants like coffee, tea, and energy drinks when studying for long hours. But if you overdo it, these can become counterproductive and make you feel more sleepy due to caffeine crash. Limit your stimulant intake and opt for healthier alternatives like green tea or chamomile tea.
6. Inadequate Nutrition
What you eat is just as important as how much you eat when it comes to preventing sleepiness while studying. Eating junk food may temporarily boost you, but it will lead to a crash soon after. Healthline proposes you should take foods like nuts, fruits, and vegetables for maximum nutrition.
7. Health Issues
Some health conditions can cause sleep while studying. According to the Sleep Foundation, some of the most common health problems that can cause excessive sleepiness are depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, lupus, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, cancer, chronic pain, and obesity.
External factors can also make you feel sleepy while studying. These could be anything from an uncomfortable environment to poor lighting or unfavorable room temperature.
8. Uncomfortable Environment
If your study space is cramped, cluttered, or too noisy, it can make you sleepy and unfocused. To avoid this, ensure that your study area is well-ventilated and comfortable. Consider investing in ergonomic furniture like a comfortable chair and desk to make studying easier.
9. Poor Lighting
It’s important to make sure your study area is well-lit. The Lighting Research Center research shows that light affects alertness because the body’s circadian rhythm is regulated by light and darkness. So, when studying in a dark room, our bodies may start to prepare for sleep instead of staying awake.
10. Unconducive Room Temperature
The temperature of your study space can also influence how sleepy you feel. It can be difficult to stay focused if it’s too hot or cold. The Illinois Department of Public Health proposes that an ideal classroom should maintain 68-79 degrees Fahrenheit (21-26 degrees Celsius) for maximum comfort and concentration. Therefore, it is advisable to maintain the same temperature in your study room.
11. Boredom with the Material
Do you find it more difficult to stay awake when studying some topics or subjects than others? This is common if you have a preference for some subjects. But what is the remedy if you find yourself getting bored and sleepy while studying? Breaking up the material into smaller chunks or switching topics occasionally to keep your mind alert can help.
12. Sedentary Lifestyle
Spending too much time sitting in one place can make your body sluggish, which can lead to feeling sleepy. To avoid this:
- take regular breaks
- move around, or
- do light exercises like stretching or jogging to get your blood flowing.
How Not to Sleep While Studying
Now that you know the causes of sleepiness while studying, let’s look at some tips on how to stay awake.
1. Get Enough Sleep
How can you stay awake when studying if you’re already sleep-deprived? Adequate sleep is essential for staying alert and focused. Most sleep experts agree that you should get at least 7 hours of quality sleep every night.
Besides the quantity, good sleeping habits are important. You should avoid:
- staying up late,
- napping during the day, or
- sleeping in on weekends.
It is advisable to keep your sleep schedule as consistent as possible. Dr. Marishka Brown, an NIH sleep expert, notes that there are 3 aspects of sleep that should be met:
- sleep quality
- Sleep quantity
You should not compromise on the three aspects if you want to stay alert while studying.
2. Create a Conducive Study Environment
Creating a comfortable and distraction-free environment is essential for staying focused. Ensure your study area is well-ventilated, has good lighting, and the temperature is just right.
Also, remove any unnecessary distractions like phones, TVs, or other gadgets that could distract your focus from studying. If you feel sleepy while studying, try listening to music or podcasts that can boost your focus.
3. Avoid Excess Stimulants
Caffeine and other stimulants like nicotine can temporarily boost alertness but can also make you more jittery and distracted. If you choose to drink coffee or tea while studying, you should limit it to one cup or two.
Caffeine crash is also real; it can make you feel more tired after the initial alertness wears off. So, instead of relying solely on stimulants to stay awake, try engaging in active learning or taking regular breaks.
4. Engage in Active Learning
What are your study strategies like? Do you read, highlight or make notes from your material? If not, it might be time to switch your study methods. Active learning involves engaging more with the material; for example, summarizing what you’ve just read or writing down key points in your own words.
Active learning techniques can help you stay focused, organized, and awake while studying. It also helps with memorizing information better and retaining what you’ve learned longer.
Flashcards are also a great way to engage in active learning. Try making flashcards of the key concepts from your material and using them to quiz yourself while studying.
5. Address Underlying Health Conditions
If you suspect a health issue might be causing your sleepiness while studying, it’s important to seek medical advice. Some underlying health conditions like diabetes or anemia can make you very tired during the day, even if you’ve had enough sleep. Therefore, it’s essential to have your health checked regularly.
6. Good Stress Management
It’s natural to feel overwhelmed and stressed when studying for exams or assignments. To keep stress and anxiety levels in check, set realistic goals, and don’t try to ‘do it all’ at once.
You should also take regular study breaks or engage in activities that can help you relax, like yoga, meditation, or creative activities like drawing. These activities will help you break the monotony of studying and check your stress levels to avoid feeling sleepy.
7. Stay Hydrated
Ciara once said, “I tell myself that water is my medicine and that to stay well, I have to drink a gallon of it every day.” while you may not have to drink a gallon of water, it is essential to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Dehydration can cause fatigue and make you even sleepier. Keep a water bottle on your desk or set the alarm every hour as a reminder to get up, stretch, and have some water. This will help keep you alert while studying.
8. Take Regular Breaks
You have probably heard about the Pomodoro technique; it is an effective way to stay focused on your studies. In this technique, you study for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break.
The breaks should be used to move around, get fresh air, or stretch your body. This will help reset your focus and ensure you don’t burn out from studying for long periods.
9. Exercise Regularly
Exercises are important for overall health but can also help you stay awake while studying. Even short activities like walking or running in the park can boost your energy and make you more alert. Exercising releases endorphins which are natural mood boosters that can make you feel energized and focused.
Is it OK to sleep while studying?
It is not ok to sleep while studying because it lowers your concentration and makes you lose focus. However, taking a short nap is okay if you’ve been studying for long hours and feel very tired. This will help you reset and reenergize before continuing your studies.
How much sleep is enough for studying?
Most adolescents need 8-10 hours of sleep each night, but the amount will vary depending on age and individual needs. A good rule of thumb is to practice good sleeping habits throughout the week and create a regular bedtime routine. This will help ensure that you are getting the right amount of sleep.
Is sleep more important than studying?
Yes, sleep is more important than studying because it is essential for overall health and well-being. Not getting enough sleep can have a negative impact on your studies. Therefore, prioritize your sleep and get enough rest, and then you can focus on studying.
Is it smart to study all night?
It’s not smart to stay up all night studying. It can lead to fatigue and make it harder for your brain to process information. Aim to get enough sleep each night to wake up refreshed and energized the next day.
Does sleep improve memory?
Sleep improves memory. Getting enough rest is essential for healthy brain function. When you sleep, your brain stores new information and helps consolidate memories.
How do I fight sleepiness while studying?
To fight sleepiness while studying, pay attention to your environment, take regular breaks, exercise regularly, and manage stress. You should also have a comfortable place to study, get enough sleep every night, drink plenty of water throughout the day, and eat healthy snacks to keep your energy levels up.
- Sleepiness while studying can be caused by internal and environmental factors.
- It is best to get enough sleep each night, practice good sleeping habits, and create a regular bedtime routine.
- Pay attention to your environment, take regular breaks, exercise regularly, and manage stress to stay awake and focused while studying.
- Stay hydrated and eat healthy snacks to keep your energy levels up.
Following these tips can help you avoid feeling sleepy while studying and ensure success in your academic pursuits.